The draft Online Safety Bill (OSB), which aims to tackle illegal and harmful online content, is expected to receive Royal Assent in the summer with Ofcom to publish codes of practice which have significant implications for company boards of directors.
The OSB will introduce rules for sites and apps such as social media, search engines and messaging platforms as well as other services that people use to share content online.
With Ofcom given the power to impose fines of up to £18m or 10% of global annual turnover -whichever is higher – if companies fail to comply with the new rules. The OSB targets a wide range of online content including terrorism, racism, child sexual exploitation, suicide, eating disorders, misogyny and revenge porn.
The bill puts a duty of care on providers of internet services that allow users to share user-generated content and providers of search engines. Companies will be put into two tiers according to the size of their online presence and the level of risk posed on the platform.
The bill will require secondary legislation to implement and is currently at the second reading stage in the House of Lords and an extension has been brokered as the original schedule aimed to receive Assent in April 2023. In January, nearly fifty Conservative MP’s supported back-bench proposals which lead to further amendments.
Significantly, a new amendment introduces criminal liability sanction of up to two years imprisonment for senior managers who fail to protect users online as part of stronger enforcement action.Ofcom has published a call for evidence on protecting children from content that is legal, but harmful to them. The Government has been under pressure to protect children following the findings of Molly Russell’s inquest that showed social media has “contributed to her death in more than a minimal way.”
The bill has been controversial since its introduction to Parliament in May 2021, drawing criticism from online safety campaigners and free speech advocates. WhatsApp says the bill could potentially undermine end-to-end encryption.
Company boards should seek the assistance of a specialist insurance broker, with in-depth technical knowledge and full market access, in order to procure the most suitable insurance for ISPs, Telecoms and Technology Companies, including Management Liability, Errors and Omissions/Professional Indemnity Insurance, Cyber and Data Breach Insurance as well as other forms for Property and Casualty Insurance.
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